Is it a cold, the flu, COVID-19 or simply Fall allergies?

On 2 Nov 2020, in health

You wake up with a sore throat or sniffles. Do you immediately begin to worry?

“Do I have COVID-19? Or could it be just a cold? What about allergies? Is it the flu?”

With the pandemic still rampant in our communities — and with cold and flu season upon us, not to mention Fall allergies — how would you know?

Flu & Cold Symptoms

Flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses, but they’re caused by different viruses. Because these two types of illnesses have similar symptoms, it can be difficult to tell them apart, based on symptoms alone.

In general, flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms are more intense. Flu usually comes on suddenly, whereas a cold comes on gradually. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose — and colds generally don’t result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections or hospitalizations. Special tests that usually must be done within the first few days of illness can tell if a person has the flu.

People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

*It’s important to note that not everyone with the flu will have a fever.

What to do about the flu?  Get a flu shot!

Getting the flu vaccine in 2020 is more important than ever. By getting the vaccine you will not only protect yourself and the people around you from flu, but you are helping to reduce the strain on healthcare systems in our area responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Several free flu shot clinics are open to the public. Additionally, many community health partners or retail locations across the region offer flu shots.  

Those with a cold may have these symptoms:

  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Mild to moderate cough
  • Body aches are possible
  • Fatigue and weakness

What to do about cold or flu symptoms? Contact your provider!

Many providers offer virtual visits for cold or flu symptoms. Or, walk-in Convenient Care clinics are open to treat standard cold and flu symptoms.   

COVID-19 Symptoms

COVID-19 is a contagious respiratory illness caused by infection with a new coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19). People with COVID-19 have reported a wide range of symptoms — ranging from mild to severe. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.

People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

(This list doesn’t include all possible symptoms. The CDC will continue to update this list as more is learned about COVID-19.)

What to do about COVID-19 symptoms? Take an online risk screening!

As a helpful first step, we've created a free screening tool based on the CDC guidelines to provide you the most appropriate care recommendations.

Seasonal Allergy Symptoms

Seasonal allergies triggered by airborne pollen can lead to seasonal allergic rhinitis, which affects the nose and sinuses, and seasonal allergic conjunctivitis, which affects the eyes.

Because some of the symptoms of COVID-19 and seasonal allergies are similar, it may be difficult to tell the difference between them, and you may need to get a test to confirm your diagnosis. Symptoms of seasonal allergies may include:

  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing*

*Seasonal allergies do not usually cause shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, unless a person has a respiratory condition such as asthma that can be triggered by exposure to pollen. This is not a complete list of all possible symptoms of seasonal allergies. Symptoms vary from person to person and range from mild to severe. You can have symptoms of both COVID-19 and seasonal allergies at the same time.

What to do about allergy symptoms? Contact your provider!

Allergy relief can often be handled through office visits with your provider, virtual visits or walk-in Convenient Care clinics.   

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